With no regrets whatsoever: Bhumika Shrestha, born Kailash
KATHMANDU, July 10: After marking her presence in social activism and politics, Bhumika Shrestha’s latest venture is in the world of cinema.
This 24-year-old minorities representative of the Nepali Congress, a member of the Blue Diamond Society, and a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) activist will soon be seen in “Highway,” the film by Deepak Rauniyar which was an official selection for the 62nd edition of the Berlin International Film Festival.
Republica met with the active and outspoken LGBTI campaigner to talk of her personal and professional life.
She was born in a middle class family in Naikap and has an elder brother and a sister. While most of us will have fond reminiscences of childhood, Bhumika looks back in sadness.
Her father passed away when she was very young, and she therefore has few memories of him. She went to a local school in her neighborhood where things were fine until she reached middle school.
“I was 11 years old when I had my first crush,” she recalls. But while having a crush is considered a part of growing up, it wasn’t all that easy for her. Born as a male and known as Kailash Shrestha, her family-given name, she was confused herself.
“Slowly, people began talking, and most of them had dire things to say (about me),” she exhales. From losing friends to being called a “hijada,” “unlucky,” and with a severely depressed state of mind, Bhumika had to face it all. She says, “The worst part was that I myself didn’t know what was happening to me. Nor did my mom.”
Her mother is her best friend who not only labored day and night as a single parent to support her children but also accepted Bhumika for being a transgender in a society like ours. Although today Bhumika’s is a proud mother and speaks openly of her daughter and of others like her at BDS, it was a tough going in the beginning.
Blue Diamond Society
Back in school, and this was when she was in her tenth grade, and therefore rigorously preparing for her School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations that her principal decided she could no longer be a member of the school family.
“I always feared something like that would happen but wasn’t expecting it,” she exhales with tearful eyes. Bhumika was also previously summoned and warned about her behaving like a girl. She was even told to change her voice.
“I didn’t actually believe they would snatch my admissions like that. The incident hurt and scared me so much that I’ve never joined school since then,” she says.
It was a little later after the incident that Bhumika learnt about BDS. She joined it and life took a turn for the better.
“I owe so much to BDS,” she smiles, adding, “I learnt that I was a transgender and all about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people there.”
Since then, there has been no looking back. From winning the Miss Pink pageant in 2007 to being chosen to represent Kathmandu District Constituency No. 9 for the Nepali Congress in 2010, she has done it all.
Back in 2007 itself, Bhumika and the BDS Society received another victory when the Supreme Court created the third legal gender and legalized same-sex marriage in Nepal.
“Acting isn’t my cup of tea,” she asserts almost immediately upon being asked about the film, Highway. So how did it happen then?
“The makers didn’t write the role for me, but it so happened that my friends at BDS suggested my name.”
Although she had her reservations for signing for the role at first, she finally accepted because she liked the character she had to portray.
“Not one film to date has correctly portrayed our LGBTI community well,” she sighs, adding, “We’ve always been shown as jokers and poked fun at.”
Asked if she will further explore cinema, Bhumika seems positive. “Yes,” she says, but with a precondition: “But only if it’s a descent role.”
Today she lives her life unapologetically, but doesn’t think much of the future. “I don’t sit down and dream of the future because things don’t usually turn out the way you want it to,” she exhales, explaining, “I wanted to become a dance instructor.”
Ours is a society where it is important to have a family, and Bhumika understands that. But she also clarifies that she doesn’t live by the rules of the society.
There’s one thing, however. She proclaims that no matter what, she’ll never quit advocating the rights of LGBTIs.
“I have yet to fully convince people that we aren’t diseased or abnormal. Also, I have yet to make amendments to my citizenship certificate which still reads “Kailash Shrestha,” and in this regard, I still have a long way to go,” she signs off.